Isn’t that what every self-employed professional is really looking for — that one magic formula that will take the effort out of marketing and bring you all the clients you need, forever?

Giant leap

Searching for this marketing silver bullet, they read articles and books, take seminars and home-study courses, and hire consultants and coaches. And in the process they learn about many, many so-called marketing secrets.

These “secrets” to marketing consist of supposedly surefire approaches like search engine optimization for your website, social media marketing, joining a leads group, sending postcards, and running pay-per-click ads. There are of course many more, and each of them is being touted by someone as the ultimate solution for marketing your business.

Trying to sort out the truth in these conflicting claims leaves you with three basic possibilities:

  • All of this is nonsense; there is no secret to marketing.
  • One of these approaches probably really is the secret, but since you have no way of knowing which one, you’d have to try them all.
  • All of these probably are secrets for some people at some times, but none of them may be right for you.

No matter which of these points of view you take, the result is that none of these secrets are ultimately very helpful.

For many years, I’ve said that the real secret to marketing for self-employed professionals is choosing a set of simple, effective things to do, and doing them consistently.

That word “effective” can make this a bit tricky. You have to know what is effective in order for this secret to work for you. If you were to choose a set of completely ineffective things to do, this approach would fail.

But by “completely ineffective,” I mean ideas like running a newspaper ad to market a management consulting business, or networking on Facebook in order to make more contacts with doctors, or sending out direct mail letters to attract psychotherapy patients. When the marketing tactics you pick are that far off base, no amount of consistency will make them work.

If you choose a set of activities that have any level of effectiveness, they will work if you do them consistently. Cold calling will work if you make enough calls. In-person networking will work if you attend events regularly and follow up with the people you meet. Public speaking will work if you speak to audiences of a decent size on a regular basis.

With consistency and persistence, you can make even the most mildly effective marketing approaches pay off in the long run. But that qualifier “in the long run” is the catch. You don’t want to wait that long. No one does.

Is there another layer to this secret that will make it all happen faster? Yes. Choose a target market that needs your services and can afford to pay for them, craft a message that market will respond to, choose a set of simple, effective approaches to reach that market, follow through on each approach, and spend enough time on your marketing to produce results.

Notice your emotional reaction to reading those words. They’re not very exciting, are they? It sounds like work.

It would be much easier if the secret was something like search engine optimization, where you could pay someone else to do all the work and the clients would simply appear. Or joining a leads group, where you could show up at a weekly meeting and the other members would hand you business. Or running pay-per-click ads, where you would never have to talk to people before they became your clients. But of course none of these approaches really work that way.

Don’t blame yourself for wanting to avoid hard work. It’s human nature to look for the easy way out. But if you spend all your time searching for the effort-free way to market, you will end up making your job much harder. Every time you try another new way to market but then don’t follow through on it, or give up too soon to see results, you waste time and money, and lose momentum. By trying to avoid work, you actually create even more.

So instead of looking for a magic formula to avoid the work of marketing altogether, find ways to make it easier on yourself. Here are four suggestions that will help.

  1. Choose a target market you enjoy spending time with, and whose issues and goals you care about.
  2. Get help with crafting marketing messages if messaging isn’t your strong point.
  3. Use role models, recommended advisors, or a trusted system to identify only the best marketing approaches, then do what they advise.
  4. Use the support of a buddy, coach, or success team to help you follow through on your plans, market consistently, and break through fear and procrastination.

Note that if the above are ways to make marketing easier, doing the opposite of any of these will make it harder. Refusing to choose a target market, for example. Or spending time and money marketing with a completely off-target message. Or trying flavor-of-the-week marketing tactics no successful person in your field ever uses. Or not doing enough marketing because it’s scary. Or trying to do everything all on your own. Or continuing to chase after silver bullet solutions.

The secret to successful marketing for self-employed professionals is choosing a set of simple, effective things to do, and doing them consistently. The secret behind this secret is finding ways to make the process easier. And the secret behind that secret is to stop looking for another secret and get to work on implementing the first one.

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